Locally Grown is a paid partnership between local businesses and Little Lake County.
Welcome to Locally Grown! Locally Grown introduces you to the people and stories behind local Lake County businesses. Today it is our pleasure to introduce you to Karen Landrian of Dancenter North. Karen is the director at Dancenter North in Libertyville.
For those who attended Dancenter North’s Spring Showcase, you may remember the dancer who floated across the stage on skates. Who was that fabulous “ice skater?” It was Karen Landrian, Dancenter North’s director. Karen’s life has always involved dancing. Today, I had the privilege of getting to know her.
Karen grew up in San Diego. She began ice skating at three and competed at age four. (She actually wanted to skate when she was even younger, but there were not skates small enough to fit her!) Karen’s mom was an integral part of her skating, frequently taking her to practices and competitions and designing costumes. Dance class was part of her skate training. But that became a part of her life, too. She studied dance at the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet for nine years until juggling both became too difficult. She then focused on her skating by skating professionally, coaching, choreographing, and directing ice shows.
Karen married, and her family grew to include a son and a daughter. They moved to Lake County when her husband began working at Abbott Labs. Her daughter began dance at Dancenter North. Like her own mother, Karen was an essential part of her daughter’s passion. During class, Karen found herself spending a lot of time at the Starbucks next door. So when a help wanted sign was posted in the studio, Karen applied for the position. But this job took her on a new path. She ended up becoming the Operations Manager for Dancenter North where she learned a lot about how the studio “ticked.” And when the studio director retired in 2014, Karen stepped up. She has been there ever since.
Being the director requires Karen to wear many hats. When I asked how the recent recital (or as it is more accurately called: Défilé) went, she explained some of the various facets: lighting scripts, production crews…there are many balls to juggle with each event. In addition to all the dance classes, the studio also has performances throughout the year: The Magic of the Nutcracker, Spring Showcase, and Dance Jam. But Karen takes it all in stride. She knows which performance halls require additional lighting. She knows all about costumes. She has the tryout process down to a science.
But that’s not all she does. She is also the co-founder and president of Power 2 Overcome Ministries. This nonprofit organization helps at-risk young men have a place to call home, provides counseling, and assists in making connections for success after high school. If that isn’t enough, she is also active in stroke awareness. Soon after taking over the studio, she suffered from a stroke. She now has been participating in events to raise money for the National Stroke Association, including competing in a half-marathon run.
Karen loves her role at Dancenter North. One of her goals is to make the studio feel like a family. And it starts with her staff, whom she adores. According to Karen,
the teachers not only teach technique, but instill quality character in their students.
The instructors look out for anyone not being treated kindly by others. And they are interested in what their students are doing outside of the studio. Karen also encourages students to pursue other activities in addition to dance. She wants them to be successful in their lives as a whole.
So what does Karen like to do outside of her world of dance? She loves seeing her children and grandchildren. She enjoys spending time outdoors, going for walks, visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden (especially for their evening concerts), traveling, volunteering, and working out—did I mention she also teaches fitness classes?
And she loves Lake County! Two of her Lake County favorites are right in downtown Libertyville: Milwalky Taco and Lunch in the Park. She said she discovered Lunch in the Park when she and her husband were house hunting years ago. They loved how families met there for lunch—many fathers came in business suits on their lunch break, and she felt it exemplefied the mentality of the Midwest. And it must have rubbed off on her, as that is exactly what she exemplifies.
It was a pleasure getting to know Karen. Her dedication and positive energy are transferred through her instructors and into their dancers. Just attend a Dancenter North performance, and you’ll see.
Disclosure: Dancenter North is our featured Locally Grown Business of the Month. This series of features is part of a paid partnership with Little Lake County. Contact littlelakecounty[at]gmail[dot]com if you are interested in featuring your own locally-owned business in our series.